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Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative partners with N.C. African Services Coalition to assist refugee communities

The School of Social Work’s Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative is partnering with the N.C. African Services Coalition (NCASC) to support a project that aims to address the disproportionate health and mental health impacts of COVID-19 on refugee and immigrant communities.

The UNC initiative is subcontracting with the coalition on a $100,000 grant that the Kate B. Reynolds Foundation recently awarded to the NCASC, said Josh Hinson, director of Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative and a clinical assistant professor.

The project will expand existing support groups for women and youth by supporting programming that shares accurate scientific information and updates on COVID-19. Part of these efforts include a comprehensive response learning model designed to assist with daily living skills and to alleviate stress and anxiety triggered by pandemic restrictions.

As a subcontractor, Refugee Wellness will hire an outreach coordinator to reach out to women and youth members of immigrant and refugee communities in the Triad, Triangle, and Charlotte area, Hinson said. The group will also conduct mental health screenings, develop and facilitate community adjustment and mental health support groups, and provide mental health treatment to individuals and families needing additional support.

Hinson launched the initiative in 2013 to help resettled refugees, who research has shown often experience trauma and struggle with culture shock and displacement. As a result, many face stress-related disorders, such as chronic physical illnesses, mental illnesses, and substance abuse. Historically, few public and private agencies have addressed these needs and have geared most of their efforts toward temporary services, such as housing and employment. The UNC initiative has worked with North Carolina counties and other agencies to connect refugee communities to needed interpreters, mental health screenings and treatment.